Weekend In: Washington DC, Part 3

Previously, I posted on making travel arrangements and finding accommodations and staying on budget by taking advantage of the huge list of free attractions in DC. Now let’s talk about staying on budget AND spending money. This post is about the bells and the whistles.

The most important part to staying on budget is actually knowing your budget. This may seem condescending or elementary, but this important detail is easily over-looked. This is particularly important if you are not traveling alone, as unplanned expenses wrack up exponentially.

When you consider your budget, there are two common ways to organize your information: by day or by trip. (You can also sub-categorize by expense type, food, transportation, etc, but for simplification I will not go that far.) There are pros and cons to each method, and you should use the one that works best for you. How are you comfortable thinking about money? Whatever your answer, that’s the way you should use. Because you have to be comfortable with your budget, and know how to work it.

I have used both methods and, generally, use both for each trip. What is my trip budget, and what does that mean for each day. I try to alternate which kind of activity takes the majority of my budget each day. One day may be dinner at the restaurant of a Top Chef finalist; the next a private tour at the Newseum. A river-tour brunch or a segway tour. (Disclosure: I’ve not done the segway tour, but I’d love to!)

On this trip, I toured the Newseum. Itself one of only a handful of museums which charge admission, the private tour was an additional charge. And it was amazing. But I’m a newsy person. I’d been to the museum before, each time taking advantage of the “free second day” with paid admission. I was pleased to have the insights into some of the exhibits I’d seen before. I still cried at the 9/11 monument. The wall of newspapers was still overwhelming.

We took a river cruise for lunch to celebrate my friend’s birthday. We had the best hamburger I’ve ever had. Shout to to Plan B, across from the DoJ on Pennsylvania. (We actually ate there twice!) We walked a lot. We laughed a lot. We got lost. But only once.

As in life, vacation spending is all about balance. Have fun. Wear comfortable shoes. Only eat what you won’t/can’t make at home. Don’t rush through it. Spend your money on moments, not things. Take – and print – your pictures.

Weekend In: Washington DC, Part 2

In my previous post, I talked a bit about determining travel and accommodations when planning a trip. For nearly every trip, travel and accommodations will be the most expensive part of your location.

There are certainly ways this could be untrue, however. Going to the Super Bowl? Having an exotic surgery? Score Hamilton tickets? As with cruising, how you spend your waking hours has the opportunity to significantly impact the budget.

For “cheap to free” activities, there’s hardly a city with as much to offer as Washington, DC. With a few notable exceptions, much of the cities attractions, supported by tax dollars, have no admission charge. There are NINETEEN Smithsonian Institute museums and attractions, including the National Zoo, in DC. Each is free and open every day (save Christmas). (source) Most of the 19 are located on Constitution and Jefferson Dr,¬†between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capital.

Keep in mind, though you could easily walk between each of these dozen or so places in one day, you won’t. And you shouldn’t! I’ve been to several of these places multiple times and still have yet to see everything. The National Portrait Gallery, a few-blocks walk, never seems to stop providing things I’ve never seen before.

In addition to these “inside activities,” there are innumerable things to keep you busy outside. Washington DC is an incredibly walk-able city, though a bit hilly heading north of the mall. There are multiple stations to rent bikes for the day; valid credit card with a bit of room required. Some rentals require a large deposit (I think $300 the first time I used one); some do not, including Capital Bikeshare.

Whether you’re walking, running, or biking, some of the best and easiest paths in DC are the well traveled loop around the Tidal Basin around the monuments. Depending on how you go, and whether or not you loop up to see the White House or the Capital, the travel distance could range from just about 4 miles to nearly 13. Generally, it’s a well marked path with many opportunities to rest… or hail a cab or catch an Uber.

One word of caution. The Monument path is not especially well lit, nor busy in late fall evenings. During this recent trip, I managed to skip a major portion of the sites, turning right when I should have turned left, and had to circle back around to see it all. Which was lovely. But tiring. So watch your signs. The Monuments at night are something to see, however, and I encourage you to try to get that in.